Shopping from home allows the convenience of sitting in jammies with a warm cup of cocoa at 2 a.m. instead of battling crowds, checkout lines and the race to find a parking space.Protect your privacy -- Provide personal information only if you know who's collecting it, why, and how it's going to be used. Don't give your computer password to anyone, and never give the seller more information than you're comfortable with providing. If a sales representative or web form asks for your Social Security Number, your driver's license number or other personal information not needed for the transaction, hang up or click off and look for another vendor.
But, the Better Business Bureau advises that shopping from your home or office, like traditional shopping, isn't without risk.
"There is no fail-safe way to identify a con artist, but you can help protect yourself by consulting with friends to see if they've done business with the company and by contacting the Better Business Bureau for a reliability/performance report," said Michael Clayton, President/CEO of the BBB serving all of Southeast Texas.
The BBB suggests:
Pay with a credit card -- Other payment options simply do not offer the same consumer protections. If the product doesn't arrive on time or if you believe it was misrepresented, you're legally entitled to added protections if you've paid for the purchase with a credit card. In addition, if you have an unauthorized charge on your credit card bill, your liability under federal law is limited to $50.
Keep records of your purchases -- When ordering by phone or Internet, write down or print out information related to the transaction, including the seller's name, address and telephone number; the name of the person you spoke with, if applicable; a description of what you ordered; and the seller's delivery date, terms and return policies.
Seek help if you run into a problem -- If you can't resolve your problem by working directly with the company, you are encouraged to contact the Better Business Bureau, 24 hours a day at (409) 835-5348 or (800) 685-7650, or online at www.southeasttexas.bbb.org.
You may also contact the Federal Trade Commission at (877) FTC-HELP (382-4357), or the Texas Attorney General's office at (512) 463-2100.